Digital Marketing That Gives More Bang for the Buck

Savvy strategies for budgeting online resources that help multifamily property managers boost leads and signed leases.
Patricia Crawford

While critically important to any multifamily property company’s success, the two words “budget planning” evoke almost as much anxiety as “Tax Day” or “root canal.”

It’s often difficult to convince key decision-makers to invest in a digital marketing strategy when there are so many innovative online tools available to attract leads and increase leases, and so much data to consider. As with most business budgets, multifamily property managers know any money left untouched or marketing dollars spent unwisely this year means less money in the department’s available budget next year.

Digital marketing budget planning requires analyzing the property management company’s current strategy and pitching new ways to increase lead conversions based on quality leads and qualifiable metrics. Maximize the money allocated to your department by using data to prove return on investment and deliver solid projections for the coming fiscal year.

Here are some ideas to consider as you map out a budget proposal for your company’s executives to justify an increase in digital marketing spending.

Quantify Website and Lead Data to Analyze Digital Marketing Spend

A successful digital marketing plan requires an integrated approach, targeting multiple online channels that are often interrelated when it comes to attributing lead conversions to a source.

Katrina Greene, senior regional manager at Sheehan Properties in Indianapolis, wishes her company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software allowed for accurate multi-touch attribution so they could identify both an “information” and “influencer” source, versus selecting a primary and secondary source that gives the main source the most credit for increasing leads and signed leases.

She says multiple touchpoints on the customer’s journey are key to converting leads at a sustainable rate. “I think the consumer’s experience and process typically requires them to have both sources in order to get a conversion,” said Greene. “Information plus influence equals strong leads.”

For example, a prospect may find information on an ILS but uses social media as an influencer, or discover information on the property’s website but it’s the guided interactive experiences on the site that inspire the consumer to make an appointment to tour the property.

“Marketing options and consumer behaviors continue to evolve and change, but marketing budgets are staying relatively close to the same as they have been,” added Greene. “It’s hard to convince ownership to escalate those costs, so having some way to quantify the importance of both how the consumer received information and was influenced during the buying process would be helpful to maintain or even grow those marketing budgets.”

Choose Quality Over Quantity by Evaluating Lead Conversions

The Franklin Johnston Group, a multifamily property company based in Virginia, tracks multi-touch attribution to better understand the overall impact of every lead source and the purchasing path of each prospect.

“When I evaluate all of our marketing sources, at the end of the day, it’s all about the lead-to-lease conversions,” said Vice President of Marketing Christopher Beckwith-Taylor. “There are some third-party listings out there that are still stuck on quantity versus quality. But it’s really about the leases we get from any given source; the conversions are what matter.”

Keep an Open Mind When Evaluating a Digital Marketing Strategy

When trying to convince company decision-makers that a digital marketing strategy merits money in the budget, it’s always wise to turn to the data to make your case. The trick is setting actionable goals and simple metrics to measure those analytics each year (preferably much more often), so your department can justify cutting or keeping an online lead source when next budget season rolls around.

“My advice: Don’t have an opinion,” said Todd Katler, CEO of Anyone Home, a CRM provider for the multifamily property industry. It all comes down to analyzing the data to show which digital strategies generate the most money at the lowest cost.

All budget proposals should be rooted in data, not assumptions or skewed statistics. “If you can’t prove your assertion, maybe you should go back and re-evaluate,” added Katler. “But, here’s the caveat: At some point, you’re going to have to try something new.”

Work with third-party technology vendors who can help your company develop metrics to test your digital marketing thesis, then set a time period for evaluation. When convincing higher-ups to give a new tool a try, outline your definition of success for the campaign by setting benchmarks for stats like lead conversions and time on website.

“That takes some of the guesswork out of it, but you have to be really rigid about evaluating it regularly,” explains Katler, who recommends stack ranking when trying to decide which marketing source provides the most bang for the buck. “How many leads do you need? Figure out how to rank them from lowest to highest acquisition cost, so you can clearly see where you need to increase the budget or make some decreases in spending.”

This approach gives your company perspective on which tactics make the most money and the true cost per lead of each strategy. Even if the property management company you work for can’t afford all of the digital marketing techniques on your wish list, you’ll have a priority list to turn to if you suddenly need additional avenues of revenue.

“Now you have some flexibility to make changes down the road,” said Katler. “When markets turn around, like they are now, you’ll have some other levers to pull and won’t have to rely on putting someone out on the street corner with a big sign advertising your property.”


Patricia Crawford is the vice president of multifamily for PERQ, which provides guided leasing platforms to expand conversions of online leads.